A bad guy cruises along for a few episodes, or sometimes a few seasons, and isn't really taken seriously. Maybe a huge war is on and you know the good guys are going to win, because of ContractualImmortality. Suddenly [[SacrificialLion a main character or a fan favorite brutally dies]]. This shows that this threat is Dead Serious.

This can be done either to get the audience off on the "right" foot with a new villain, or to beef up a previously unimpressive one. It can also be used after a FaceHeelTurn to spur the villain's former comrades into finally acting against him instead of trying to get him back on their side. Such moments also might be used for a TonightSomeoneDies rating stunt.

This trope is basically TheWorfEffect pushed to its logical conclusion, a subset of AnyoneCanDie, and/or one of the effects of KnightOfCerebus. If the character who is killed has a name and a well-developed background, he's a SacrificialLion. If he has a name, but his background is fuzzy to non-existent, he's a SacrificialLamb. If the dead guy has no name and no background, he's just a RedShirt.

Compare NotSoHarmlessVillain, StuffedIntoTheFridge and ShooOutTheClowns.

!!'''As a DeathTrope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.'''
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!!Examples

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[[folder: Anime ]]

* Hughes' death by Envy's hands from ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist''.
* In ''Anime/DigimonAdventure02,'' when Myotismon returns as [[strike:[[FanNickName Marsh]]]][[OneWingedAngel Malo Myotismon,]] the writers do a great job of making you really, ''really'' wanna see the bastard get what's coming to him by having him [[BadBoss brutally slaughter his two lovable minions.]] Sad that after that, he [[AnticlimaxBoss proves to be]] [[TalkingTheMonsterToDeath all talk.]]
* Krillin's death (the first time it happens!) in ''Manga/DragonBall'' is an example of this. It showed that Piccolo Daimou was no joke and marked the first death of a main character.
* ''Manga/OnePiece'' fans all figured that Ace would be rescued, since 'no one ever dies in One Piece' is a common mantra among the fandom. They were wrong, and shortly afterward, Whitebeard also died.
* In ''TengenToppaGurrenLagann'', [[{{Badass}} Kamina]] spends all his time rampaging around the landscape with his brother [[CowardlyLion Simon]] and the [[TrueCompanions Dai-Gurren Brigade]] before they decide to take a ridiculously huge mobile battleship as their base by stealing it. Owing to Simon freaking out over seeing a kiss between his crush [[ActionGirl Yoko Littner]] and Kamina, his big bro punches some sense into him; opening him up to a fatal strike from Thymilph. He's still so badass that he gets back up and avenges himself, pulling off the series' first [[ThisIsADrill Giga Drill Breaker]], but dies immediately afterward. Cue Simon's HeroicBSOD.
* The first sign of how utterly dark a MagicalGirl series we're dealing with in ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' comes in the climax of the third episode, where [[CoolBigSis Mami]] gets {{eaten alive}} by Charlotte.
* Up to present day, ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' had never killed a named character among the good guys - of course if we're talking about manga, and not filler/movie material. In the last arc of the manga (announced by the chapter title [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin "Final Arc - The Thousand year war"]]), after the bad guys just showed up, they killed Sasakibe Chojiro, vice captain of the 1st Division. Well, his name is actually the only thing we really knew about him; but during his funeral it was established that [[InformedAbility he was actually a]] [[HiddenBadass much stronger warrior than he looked like]], and thus the new enemies are to be taken [[TheWorfEffect very seriously]].
** Gets played with much more severity when the current BigBad actually manages to kill old Man Yamamoto. After the reader finally gets to ''see'' the terrifying things Yamamoto can do with his Bankai.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* DC Comics have been using this trope repeatedly in their latest 'Crisis' storylines. The best example might be Dr. Light, who suffered from {{Villain Decay}} to the point that he was a joke among the DC universe, and returned to true villainy in the Identity Crisis storyline.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film ]]

* Wash was killed off in ''Film/{{Serenity}}'' purely so that the audience would spend the rest of the battle freaking out every time a character was injured.
** Joss jokes that he actually warned the actor, and informed said actor far in advance that this character was going to die when it went down.
** And earlier in the same movie, Book's death, along with the destruction of every single safe haven the crew's ever had is the main impetus for the crew to actually deal with the Operative.
** There's a story circulating that Alan Tudyk told JossWhedon, "You should totally kill Wash at the beginning of the second season because no one will see that coming."

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature ]]

* Cedric Diggory in ''Literature/HarryPotter''.
** As is Sirius Black himself.
** [[ItWasHisSled Snape kills Dumbledore]].
* The ''StarWars'' ExpandedUniverse novels in the ''NewJediOrder'' series began by killing off Chewbacca in the first novel. They had actually planned to kill ''Luke'' -- but GeorgeLucas nuked this plan.
** More recently, Jacen Solo's murder of Mara Jade-Skywalker rounded off his FaceHeelTurn.
* Gandalf and Boromir in ''{{Lord of the Rings}}'', facilitating the GenreSwitch of the story.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* Dr Heightmeyer in ''Series/StargateAtlantis''.
* From ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'':
** Up until Jenny Calendar's death, the Scoobies had been more concerned with restoring Angel's soul than actually stopping him, but killing her off apparently [[MoralEventHorizon crossed a line]] that let everyone know he was serious.
** When Warren shot Tara at the end of season six, it was the final step in showing he wasn't a villain you could just laugh off anymore.
*** It also ended his career as a villain. Willow skinned him alive in revenge the very next episode.
*** Read Season 8. Warren... kinda got better.
** Also when Jonathan died in Season 7.
* Edward Kerr wanted out of his contract for ''Series/SeaQuestDSV'' season 3. The powers that be forced him to stick around for the first few episodes so as to unexpectedly kill him off midseason, underlining the show's DarkerAndEdgier ReTool.
* You wouldn't call the first season of ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' cheery, exactly, but the death of John Winchester in season two is what marks the show's sharp descent into complete misery for all major characters.
* In season 2 of ''{{Series/Justified}}'' Dickie Bennett does not appear to be much of a serious threat compared to his mother Mags or his older brother Doyle. His attempt at a solo criminal career is easily thwarted by Boyd Crowder. Then he kills Aunt Helen and thus causes all the bloodshed that ends the season.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* In [[GIJoe G.I Joe Resolute]] Cobra Commander sets out to prove to the world that he is no longer a cowardly idiot he has Storm Shadow kill Bazooka and he blows up Moscow.
** He also kills Major Bludd in front of his troops to show he's not taking anymore crap from them.
* Airachnid's sudden and brutal murder of Breakdown in ''WesternAnimation/TransformersPrime'' arguably qualifies, serving to illustrate that this homicidal, AxeCrazy villainess was no longer content just standing around the bridge of the ''Nemesis'' and taking orders.

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[[folder: Web Comics ]]

* Protagonists start dying left and right in late Act 5 Act 2 in ''{{Homestuck}}''. Interestingly, there are no fewer than 6 killers and most of them end up dying themselves or are protagonists forced to ShootTheDog.
** The first few times qualify, but afterwards, what with the various dreamselves, alternate timeline clones, dreambubble dwellers and what not, KilledOffForReal gets kind of hard to define. Plus, since the number of characters who haven't been killed at least once by now can be counted on one hand, it's questionable whether or not deaths are truly serious anymore.
--> Hussiebot: "Oh god, you're right! There are still a few characters I haven't killed yet. I almost forgot about them."
* Reka's death in ''RPGWorld''.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Theater ]]

* OlderThanSteam: ''RomeoAndJuliet'': Though neither side is presented as inherently more evil than the others, the death of the formally comical Mercutio as a result of the Capulet/Montague feud lets everyone know things are about to go straight to hell.
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